Great taste, good looks. This is something we often take for granted in Singapore where we are blessed with a great variety of food to choose from, regardless of the time of the day. However, making food taste and look good is actually a deliberate process, something that the chef (or baker, in this case) has to put in considerable thought and effort into achieving. This time, we had the privilege to speak to Natalie Teo, the co-founder of The Artisan’s Apron, which specialises in making custom delicious and delectable cakes and pastries for events such as weddings, birthdays and anniversaries. Natalie shares her experience of starting a pastry business, her cake design inspirations and more!
Natalie, thanks for taking time to speak to us. How did the idea of The Artisan’s Apron come about?
‘The Artisan’s Apron’ embodies the expression of creativity and novelty through baked creations and that’s what I really wanted to work towards. After 2 years of baking as a hobby, I wanted to take my baking to the next level; from home-baked rustic to contemporary cakes and pastries that are authentic.
Your pastries and cakes look so pretty! Where do you get your design inspirations from?
Thanks Dean! A huge part of my inspiration is actually the blending of colours. This includes ombre colour tones, watercolours and tie-dyed effects. I enjoy having cakes as my canvas where I can mix and blend colours to create one-of-a-kind yummy ‘art pieces’!
I also love the delicate and elegant touch that flowers give to cakes. This inspired me to learn several techniques for creating edible flowers on my cakes – from hand-piped buttercream flowers to hand-painted wafer flowers!
How do you juggle between creating something so aesthetically pleasing yet being practical/edible at the same time?
Well, this was probably one of the greatest challenges that I faced in my kitchen! For products such as our cupcake bouquet, macaron tower and tall cakes… each have their own risks of being damaged if not constructed properly. Each product required thorough planning and testing to ensure that it was fully stable to be transported and delivered.
We also do not compromise on taste. In fact, taste matters the most for us. No matter how beautiful a cake, if it doesn’t taste good then what’s the point? It has to be beautiful from the inside-out (;
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in starting a new business?
One challenge would be finding an area of specialisation. Before I started the business, I enjoyed baking a variety of pastries and cakes.. from tarts and cream puffs to mousse cakes and apple pies. However, with this trade being extremely competitive in Singapore, I knew that I needed to specialise and have a unique selling point. After putting in a lot of thought, I decided to specialise in contemporary cakes that are authentic with an ethereal touch.
Another challenge was communication between my sister and I. My sister and I are co-founders of this business and we are 10 years apart in age! Finding the best way to communicate clearly with one another definitely required effort. But since we’ve started the business, I believe we’ve improved a lot in how we communicate as sisters AND business partners. Haha!
You have made cakes and pastries for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and even baby showers. What are some of your most memorable events?
The more challenging the cakes were for me, the more memorable they were. Haha! Some challenging cakes included a Star Wars-themed cake with a Death Star on it and another cake that was hand-painted gold!
Our first wedding cake was also very memorable. It was definitely nerve-wrecking assembling our very first wedding cake at the wedding venue as I couldn’t afford to make any mistakes! Thankfully, the wedding cake turned out beautifully and that was one of my proudest moments ever since I started baking.
What was the most technically demanding cake/pastry you had to make for a client?
I would say that our cupcake bouquet was the most technically demanding to create simply because it was challenging to achieve both practicalities and aesthetics, as you mentioned earlier. The structure of the cupcake bouquet has to be extremely stable in order for the cupcakes to remain tightly attached to it. This took us lots of practise and research!
Where do you see the Artisan’s Apron going in 3 to 6 months time?
In 3 to 6 months I see us refining our products and taking on more exciting projects. I also hope that The Artisan’s Apron will continue to gain greater social media presence on Instagram (@theartisansapron) and Facebook.
Any words of advice or suggestions to those who wish to venture into the cakes/pastry business?
I would recommend starting an online bakery first to test out the market and find out how the public responds to your products. Investing in a store front immediately may not be the best idea considering the high costs you would have to incur ever month.
I would also advice this: Keep making mistakes, keep learning and keep improving. The lessons you take away from experiencing failures can’t be learnt from a recipe book!